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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: 2008 Gatorade Duel 150s at Daytona Race Recaps

Race One

The Key Moment: Reed Sorenson teamed up with Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the final restart and the duo drove away from the field. Truthfully, as strong at the No. 88 car looked, Earnhardt probably didn’t need help.

In a Nutshell: The cars might be OK, and the tires might be OK, but those tires on those cars just don’t seem to be working.

Dramatic Moment: When Brian Vickers spun out early in the race while near the head of the pack, it could have set off a field-decimating wreck. There was some good heads up driving in the field to avert disaster as Vickers headed for the infield.

What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week

Remember back when the qualifying races used to be the most exciting events of Speedweeks, you know back when more than two people from each race transferred to the 500?

Is Earnhardt ever going to lose a race driving for HMS? If he does it will probably be because of a blown engine. What’s going on with those HMS Chevy engines? This team never loses engines. Did Junior bring along key members of the DEI engine shop when he switched teams?

So Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch are back on probation. But NASCAR says that now probation is a lot more serious than it used to be, though they won’t say how. My guess is, in the old days, if a driver on probation did something wrong NASCAR officials were somewhat annoyed, but starting this year, if the same driver screws up they will instead be pissed off to a major degree. But they still won’t do a damn thing about it.

STAFF SIDE-BY-SIDE: WHO’S AT FAULT, BUSCH OR STEWART?

Boy things sure have changed since Saturday night, though the announcers remained the same. On Saturday night during the Bud Shootout there was no side draft with the new cars. By Thursday, everyone was using the side draft to make passes. On Saturday it no longer took the car two laps to get up to speed with the new larger restrictor plates, but it took two laps for the cars to get up to speed again on Thursday. And for the record, how can a one-car team have two cars in the Daytona 500?

Maybe Jeff Hammond needs to take a cold shower before working with Krista Voda next time?

Maybe he’ll get the message now. When DW asked the crowd to join him in his annoying “Boogity, boogity, boogity” shtick, the silence was deafening.

Wow, things are getting desperate for the California track at Fontana. San Bernadino County is running ads promoting the poorly-attended race. I’ve never seen taxpayer dollars used to promote a race on national TV before.

Does that white cross painted on the track indicate the spot where Dale Earnhardt died in 2001?

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

Elliott Sadler blistered two tires. The second time he threw the carcass of the tire and slapped the wall hard, bending up the car his team planned to race on Sunday.

Bill Elliott and the Wood Brothers are legends at Daytona, but they won’t be racing this year at Daytona.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

Vickers got spun on the second lap but rallied his way back to a ninth-place finish, which was good enough to make the Daytona 500.

Kurt Busch had wiring problems (when the wiring ignites, that’s a problem) and finished dead last, but he had a past champion’s provisional in hand to make the race.

Worth Noting

  • The win was Junior’s third victory in a Daytona qualifying race.
  • No driver has ever won the Bud Shootout (under any of its names), a qualifying race, and the Daytona 500 in the same year. Elliott was close winning the Busch Clash and the Daytona 500 in 1987, but finished second to Ken Schrader by a foot.

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans with one being a stinker and a six-pack an instant classic): We’ll give this one four cans of the best kind of beer, an early afternoon-off work special. There were no big incidents and some heated battling for the lead.

Race Two

The Key Moment: Jeff Gordon pushed Denny Hamlin past Stewart on the final restart to seal the win for the No. 11.

In a Nutshell: By the recent standards of Daytona, this was a sedate Thursday afternoon.

Dramatic Moment: When Jacques Villeneuve had his car get out from under him, he triggered the biggest wreck of the afternoon.

What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week

Well, apparently it’s not going to take Joe Gibbs Racing too long to figure out these Toyotas. But will their success in a foreign brand further diminish interest in the sport for longtime fans?

I don’t know what the deal is with this new oil-dry, but I liked the old stuff better. Clean up was quicker with the old stuff and it didn’t cause a virtual dust-storm during the process. And, come on, Daytona can’t afford their own oil-dry truck? They apparently had to borrow one from Kansas.

Will the tires hold up in Sunday’s race? To date, we haven’t seen 43 cars driven in anger on the track at any one time. The consequences of a tire failure grow more dire the larger the pack.

Looks like the pace car is a current edition Corvette. It seems like the restricted Cup cars couldn’t keep up with the soon to be introduced ZR1 model.

Team strategy – Is it the way the game gets played now or another step down the slippery slope of the conversion of Cup racing to Formula 1?

I don’t feel that this short-track trick of the leader brake-checking the field coming to a restart has any place at Daytona.

Sure sounds like somebody started giving Stewart his meds again after last weekend.

Did anyone check the gas in Michael Waltrip‘s car?

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

With David Reutimann seemingly able to make the 500 based on his finishing position, Boris Said was poised to make the big race until John Andretti passed the No. 00 car on the final lap.

I’m not sure if Carpentier is French for “carpenter,” but that Canadian dude sure did seem to enjoy nailing the wall.

Jamie McMurray‘s team is going to be hauling a whole lot of junk back from Daytona.

The “Seven Come Fore Eleven” Award For Fine Fortune

After a rough start to Speedweeks, Hamlin’s fortunes are looking up.

Dale Jarrett is lucky he had both teammates in his 150-mile race because he clearly wasn’t going anywhere fast before they both came to his aid.

Worth Noting

  • Hamlin has now won a Bud Shootout and a qualifying race at Daytona. Only one more prize awaits him, the big one, uh, not a good term to use when discussing Daytona. He just needs to win the 500.
  • The last time the polesitter won a Daytona 500 was Jarrett in 2000. The last winner of a Bud Shootout to win the Daytona 500 was Earnhardt Jr. in 2004.

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans with one being a stinker and a six-pack an instant classic): We’ll give this one three cans of Asahi, the best selling beer in Japan.

Next Up: If you need to ask you really haven’t been paying attention. Tune in around 3:15 on Sunday for the 50th running of the Daytona 500, and the 20th one with those “temporary” restrictor plates that were introduced in 1988.